In Chapter 33, Isaiah continues to look forward to the millennium, while also addressing current events that were transpiring in his day.
Father in heaven, give us understanding as we read thy word, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
1 Woe to thee that spoilest, and thou wast not spoiled; and dealest treacherously, and they dealt not treacherously with thee! when thou shalt cease to spoil, thou shalt be spoiled; and when thou shalt make an end to deal treacherously, they shall deal treacherously with thee.
In the context of Isaiah’s day, he was referring to the Assyrian army that was terrorizing Israel, but thieves can be found in all ages and in all segments of society. Jesus seemed to be particularly offended by religious leaders who took advantage of people. He said they had turned his Father’s house into a den of thieves. He also said they devour widows’ houses, and for a shew make long prayers: the same shall receive greater damnation.
2 O LORD, be gracious unto us; we have waited for thee: be thou their arm every morning, our salvation also in the time of trouble.
Isaiah’s day was definitely a time of trouble, but maybe Isaiah is referring to a time in the future, the time of Jacob’s trouble:
3 At the noise of the tumult the people fled; at the lifting up of thyself the nations were scattered.
4 And your spoil shall be gathered like the gathering of the caterpiller: as the running to and fro of locusts shall he run upon them.
Verses 3 and 4 were fulfilled partially after the defeat of the Assyrians. (Isa 37) The Assyrian army included soldiers from other ‘nations’ they had conquered; their corpses were inevitably spoiled, or looted, before they were burried. I think these verses will have a future fulfillment as well after the Second Coming. Just as the children of Israel spoiled the Egyptians to collect their back pay for all the work they performed as slaves (Ex 12:36), I believe the same thing will happen again when Jesus returns. Proverbs 13:22 says the wealth of the sinner is laid up for the just.
5 The LORD is exalted; for he dwelleth on high: he hath filled Zion with judgment and righteousness.
Verse 5 is a recapitulation of Isaiah 32:1. Jesus is going to reign in righteousness. Isaiah calls Him LORD (lit Jehovah). Jesus will bring justice to the earth. Judgment will not end with the great tribulation period. It will continue for the next 1000 years. Jesus will deal with sin and injustice swiftly and decisively. He will give those who have trusted in Him power over the nations. (Rev 2:26) And he [Jesus] shall rule them [the nations] with a rod of iron; as the vessels of a potter shall they be broken to shivers: even as I received of my Father. (Rev 2:27) As for those who did not put their trust in Him, Jesus will say, But those mine enemies, which would not that I should reign over them, bring hither, and slay them before me. (Lk 19:27)
6 And wisdom and knowledge shall be the stability of thy times, and strength of salvation: the fear of the LORD is his treasure.
That is what Jesus treasures, reverent obedience. This can be our treasure as well if we are willing. This is the wisdom that is from above. The world sees gold as treasure just as the false prophets see gain as godliness, but Jesus said it is easier for a camel to go through a needle’s eye, than for a rich man to enter into the kingdom of God. No, gain does not equal godliness; But godliness with contentment is great gain. (1 Tim 6:6) It may seem that the rich have it made, but James, the brother of our Lord, wrote, Go to now, ye rich men, weep and howl for your miseries that shall come upon you. Your riches are corrupted, and your garments are motheaten. Your gold and silver is cankered; and the rust of them shall be a witness against you, and shall eat your flesh as it were fire. Ye have heaped treasure together for the last days. (Jam 5:1-3) Jesus said (or implied) that if we are responsible with our material wealth as good stewards, He will trust us with the true riches. (Lk 16:11)
7 Behold, their valiant ones shall cry without: the ambassadors of peace shall weep bitterly.
Again, this had an initial fulfillment in Isaiah’s day. Sennacherib’s ambassadors of ‘peace’ (Isa 36) got a big shock when Hezekiah did not submit to their demands. (Isa 37) When Jesus returns, those who are foolish and unprepared will be in for a big surprise when they behold his glory and see the door is shut to them. Despite the weeping and gnashing of teeth, they will find no place of repentance. (See Matt 25:14-46)
8 The highways lie waste, the wayfaring man ceaseth: he hath broken the covenant, he hath despised the cities, he regardeth no man.
I believe this describes both the condition of Israel after they were attacked by the Assyrians, as well as Israel in the time of Jacob’s trouble.
9 The earth mourneth and languisheth: Lebanon is ashamed and hewn down: Sharon is like a wilderness; and Bashan and Carmel shake off their fruits.
10 Now will I rise, saith the LORD; now will I be exalted; now will I lift up myself.
11 Ye shall conceive chaff, ye shall bring forth stubble: your breath, as fire, shall devour you.
12 And the people shall be as the burnings of lime: as thorns cut up shall they be burned in the fire.
This sounds like a pretty accurate description of a nuclear holocaust.
13 Hear, ye that are far off, what I have done; and, ye that are near, acknowledge my might.
14 The sinners in Zion are afraid; fearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites. Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire? who among us shall dwell with everlasting burnings?
Now Isaiah is describing something else, not nuclear war but the glory of God’s throne. For our God is a consuming fire. (Heb 12:29) In the next verse, Isaiah answers his own question:
15 He that walketh righteously, and speaketh uprightly; he that despiseth the gain of oppressions, that shaketh his hands from holding of bribes, that stoppeth his ears from hearing of blood, and shutteth his eyes from seeing evil;
16 He shall dwell on high: his place of defence shall be the munitions of rocks: bread shall be given him; his waters shall be sure.
17 Thine eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off.
Verses 14-17 sound similar to what David said in Psalm 24:3-5.
18 Thine heart shall meditate terror. Where is the scribe [accountant]? where is the receiver [tax collector]? where is he that counted the towers [soldier]?
The inhabitants of Jerusalem who trusted God would marvel at their deliverance from the Assyrians. The Assyrian officials, ie the scribe, the receiver, and he that counted the towers in preparation for the siege, would be destroyed. (Isa 37)
19 Thou shalt not see a fierce people, a people of a deeper speech than thou canst perceive; of a stammering tongue, that thou canst not understand.
Ie, Jerusalem was delivered; they avoided captivity in Assyria.
20 Look upon Zion, the city of our solemnities: thine eyes shall see Jerusalem a quiet habitation, a tabernacle that shall not be taken down; not one of the stakes thereof shall ever be removed, neither shall any of the cords thereof be broken.
21 But there the glorious LORD will be unto us a place of broad rivers and streams; wherein shall go no galley with oars, neither shall gallant ship pass thereby.
Jerusalem does not have any rivers or streams that run through it or by it, but one day it will. (See Ez 47:1-5; Zech 14:4-8) Isaiah is looking forward to the millennium.
22 For the LORD is our judge, the LORD is our lawgiver, the LORD is our king; he will save us.
Last week I mentioned how Christian countries with governments based on biblical principals offer the most freedom and upward mobility. It was this verse, Isaiah 33:22, that inspired the founding fathers to create the three branches of federal government: The judicial branch, the legislative branch, and the executive branch. Because the of the fallen nature of the human condition, a separation of powers with checks and balances (and a Bill of Rights) is the best form of government available to us until Jesus returns. When He does return, this verse will finally be fulfilled. Yesterday in the United States, we celebrated our Independence from Great Britain. We must be doing something right because 243 years later, people want to immigrate to the US more than anywhere else in the world. (At least according the WEF.) America was founded on Christian principles, which is why we have been so blessed. Lately, a lot has been made of the fact that many of the founding fathers owned slaves. The fact is, however, slavery was one of the main reasons many of the founders got involved in the Revolution. According to America’s historian, David Barton, “The greatest moral issue of that day was slavery; and after several of the American colonies moved toward abolishing slavery in 1773, the king, in 1774, vetoed those anti-slavery laws and continued slavery in America. Soon-to-be signers of the Declaration Benjamin Franklin and Benjamin Rush promptly founded America’s first abolition society as a direct response against the king’s order. The desire to end slavery in America was a significant motivation not only for Franklin and Rush but also for a number of others; but the end of slavery in America could be achieved only if they separated from Great Britain – which they were willing to do, and six of the thirteen colonies abolished slavery immediately following the separation.” *
The spirit of the Revolution was conceived in the pulpits of America. Its express purpose was crystallized in this sublime statement, which was etched into the ages on July 4th, 1776: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
23 Thy tacklings are loosed; they could not well strengthen their mast, they could not spread the sail: then is the prey of a great spoil divided; the lame take the prey.
24 And the inhabitant shall not say, I am sick: the people that dwell therein shall be forgiven their iniquity.
Isaiah uses the word picture of a sailboat that wouldn’t sail as he closes the chapter. When Jesus returns his people are going to realize that all their efforts in the flesh were in vain. They will finally be ready to abandon their worldly ways and trust God in all things. They will then find that faith in Christ fills their sails and propels them on their way like never before. The lame will be healed. That is why they will not say they are sick.
As we read through the judgment sections of Isaiah, I feel it is important to remember that we are living in an age of grace, under the new covenant of grace. Isaiah sets the bar for Christian living pretty high in verse 15. The only way we can live up to this standard is through our relationship with Christ, who fulfilled Isaiah 33:15 perfectly. It is not about trying; it is about dying—dying to self. Paul said he died daily. (1 Cor 15:31) When we fail, we confess our sins to God and receive forgiveness. If you want to receive Christ as your personal Saviour, just call on Him and ask Him to save you. It really is that easy. (Rom 10:13) Jesus did the hard part. All He asks is that we repent and believe on Him.
In closing, those who sacrificed everything for freedom nearly two and a half centuries ago understood the power that is available through faith in Christ. Maybe that is why the motto of the American Revoution was, “No king but King Jesus.” **
Father, thank You for your mercy that endureth forever. Thank You for showing us your plan. Thank You most of all for your Son. Draw us closer to Him and help us to live for Him and trust Him in all things, in Jesus’ name. Amen.
* As cited in Dragon Slayer Jesus Christ, p 17.
** David Barton, The Spirit of the American Revolution, (Aledo, TX: Wallbuilder Press, 1994), p. 10.